My name is Lila Macapagal and my life has become a rom-com cliché. ~ Opening of Arsenic and Adobo
Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala is one of my favorite cozy mysteries of the year. Lila Macapagal finds herself the prime suspect when an ex-boyfriend, a food critic, ends up dead after eating at her Tita Rosie's restaurant. The business had already been struggling, the landlord is ready to kick them out, and the dead man's cruel reviews had not helped any. Aided by her best friend and her nosy auntie network, Lia begins her own investigation into who would kill her ex and why.
I am so happy to see more cozy mysteries being published that feature people of color these days, this one featuring a Filipino-American and her family. I took to Lila right away. She was betrayed by an ex-boyfriend (not the food critic) and has returned to her hometown recover. She is smart and funny, and makes a pretty good amateur sleuth. She grows as a character over the course of the novel, something I really appreciated. I also liked that the author did not shy away from touching on racism and living between two different cultures. Obviously given this is a cozy mystery, these issues are not explored in great depth due to the type of book this is, but it is enough and, I believe, necessary. The author fits them very naturally into the story being told.
I enjoyed spending time with Lila, getting to know her friends and her aunties. She has a strong support network that obviously are very loyal to each other. The mystery itself was well-crafted, the characters and their relationships complex, and I loved the author's wit throughout. I look forward to reading more of this series in the future.
* * *
Chikara Press, 2021
Crime Fiction/Historical; 206 pgs
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